Buy Online & Pick up In-Store: How It’s Changing Everything

Curbside pickup.

Buy online, pick up in-store.

Do these phrases ring a bell to you?

Phrases that three or four years ago would have been foreign to the average consumer are now creeping into our everyday life.

Curbside pickup has been around for restaurants like Red Robin and Applebee’s for some time.

But if you take a moment to look around, you may notice grocery stores like Walmart, Whole Foods, and Kroger now with entire sections of their parking lots reserved for buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) customers.

It’s a sign of the times to be sure and retail’s getting onboard, too.

Case in point: I had my first retail clothing experience with BOPIS during the Nordstrom Semi-Annual sale. They offered discounts up to $10 off a future purchase, enticing consumers to try out their in-store pick-up feature – and it appears to have worked.

Late summer, I arrived at Nordstrom to find an entire corner of the store had been turned into a BOPIS distribution hub.

To help expedite the returns process, they even had dedicated fitting rooms allowing customers to try it on before leaving the store.

There is a specialist ready to handle returns and get inventory back in their online distribution system.

They were reducing their shipping costs and recirculating returned sales items into inventory in near real-time, allowing other consumers to nab the deal before the sale ended.

Dialed in is an understatement here.

So, is BOPIS here to stay?

Let’s explore, pinpointing the growth of this new retail experience, the dos and don’ts, and how it’s impacting retail today and tomorrow.

Is BOPIS a Phenomenon or Fad?

Consumers have been looking for more flexible ways to save time and money while shopping and BOPIS is fulfilling that need.

In fact, the number of locations offering BOPIS nearly doubled for grocery retailers in 2018.

Whether it’s because customers are becoming more “on-demand” with their consumer needs, struggling to find time to make treks into storefronts, like me and have a newborn child in their household, or just find some level of comfort by picking up items in person, BOPIS is accelerating the growth in ecommerce transactions.

It will only continue to grow this holiday shopping season.

In 2018, 27.5% of shoppers planned to shop online and take advantage of BOPIS fulfillment services during the holiday season.

When Periscope asked 1,101 consumers if they planned to use store pick up, 78% responded favorably.

In other words, BOPIS is here to stay. So the question is, can you or are you willing to embrace it?

Many Traditional Retailers Are Struggling – Don’t Be One of Them

The struggle to connect with today’s modern consumer is hitting the retail industry hard.

In 2017, the financial services firm Credit Suisse predicted that 1 in 4 U.S. malls will shut down by 2022. This is due to the sheer volume of store closing announcements and bankruptcies from places like Sears, Lord & Taylor, Victoria Secret, Gymboree, GNC, and Toys R Us.

Traditional retail is in a state of disruption and stores need to rethink and reorganize their business and their consumer experience from the ground up to stay afloat.

Grocery chains, for example, are reaping the benefits of ecommerce growth and expanding their shipping fulfillment options to meet consumer demand.

Walmart beat their Q1 earnings with ecommerce sales up 37% – fueled in part by its expanded grocery offering and revamped customer experiences across fashion and home.

Here are a few tips to stay ahead of the retail game:

Move Away from a Product-Centric Focus

Expect a transaction to happen on a specific date – to a customer-centric focus that revolves around loyalty, engagement, and experiences.

Stop Operating in a Silo

Instead, develop a fluid integration of in-store and online infrastructures.

Provide customers with end-to-end personalization no matter what step they’re on in the buying journey.

Invest in Technology

Invest in technology to unlock the value and power of your data to create experiences that consumers expect like:

  • Personalized recommendations.
  • In-store availability.
  • Making product fulfillment and returns possible both online and instore.

Quick Tips to Capture BOPIS Growth This Holiday Season

The holiday season isn’t just around the corner, but actually on our doorstep, as 4 in ten shoppers plan to start shopping for the season by November 1.

But more importantly, 55% plan to do so online. (That’s not a surprise considering Statista has reported double-digit holiday ecommerce sales growth since 2010.)

Research from Microsoft Advertising internal data can shine a little light on the trends surrounding the BOPIS phenomenon, especially thinking about the holiday season.

  • We found that on average, BOPIS users took less than three days to convert, with 82% of BOPIS shoppers converting in one day.
  • The top BOPIS categories extend beyond grocery to include home improvement, women’s and men’s clothing, furniture, and home décor.

But how to translate statistical insight into action?

Here are several ways you can prepare your digital campaigns to take advantage:

Know & Target Consumers Throughout Their Customer Journey

Microsoft Advertising Internal data found search to be an integral part of the shopper’s journey.

This means leveraging remarketing efforts and in-market audiences to capture and convert the audience quickly and efficiently.

If You Offer Various Fulfillment Options, Let Customers Know!

Spread the word by customizing keywords, ad copies, ad extensions, and landing pages to include store pick up or ship to store.

Use Local Inventory Ads

These retailers to promote their in-store inventory.

For example, when a customer is near a retailer’s physical store location and searches for a product carried by the retailer, the search engine shows an ad with an in-store notification that inventory is there and available.

Increase Demographic Targeting with Millennials

Microsoft Advertising found that 28% of millennials are willing to pay more for BOPIS options, so redouble your focus on efforts on that generation.

Measure the Actual Impact by Tracking Your Online Clicks That Drive to Offline Transactions

In other words, take the time to find out if your paid search efforts are boosting offline revenue by attributing in-store purchases to online ad- clicks.


It’s time to embrace the new consumer by:

  • Providing them with a myriad of purchase/pick up options, including buy online, pick up in-store.
  • Developing a merchandise strategy that builds off what’s possible rather than what’s been done.

Use this holiday season as your motivation to try something new and revamp your digital marketing efforts.

Get more of your products and services in front of the right people.

More Resources:

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, September 2019